Cricket World Cup: Where is England seven months away from defending the title and pick your team

A graphic showing England white ball captain Jos Buttler and coach Matthew Mott at center and bowlers Jofra Archer on the left and Jason Roy on the right
Jofra Archer (left) and Jason Roy (right) have both had fitness and form concerns over the past 12 months, leaving captain Jos Buttler (centre left) and coach Matthew Mott (centre right) unanswered questions.

After a 2-1 series win in Bangladesh, England’s 50-over side are done for the winter.

Jos Buttler’s side did not play another one-day international for six months and start their World Cup defense in India a month later.

With the help of Cricviz and BBC Test Match Special pundit and former England spinner Phil Tufnell, we look at the questions England still face when it comes to retaining the trophy They won dramatically in 2019.

You can also select your England XI for the World Cup at the bottom of the page.

‘Roy looks confident again into the crease’

A chart comparing England's 10-over-batting power play between two periods: the average between June 2018 and May 19 was 62-1, but this fell to 46-2 between July 22 and March 6.  Their score between June 2018 and May 2019 was the best in the world, but they are currently the third-ranked team.  Her dot ball percentage has also increased from 54% to 61% during this period.

After such strength as the openers thrashed attacks into submission on the power play, England have found it harder to get runs at the top of the rankings of late.

In the year leading up to the 2019 tournament, Eoin Morgan’s side led the batting power play in a variety of categories, not least by runs scored.

But under the leadership of Buttler and coach Matthew Mott, they’re hitting fewer runs, losing more wickets and conceding more point balls on average.

Jason Roy’s continued poor form in 2022 was a big part of that, but with doubts as to whether he deserves a place, the last hundred games against South Africa and Bangladesh have eased the pressure.

“He did well, he had a very slim trot and when the pressure is on you have to go out there and put in some performances,” Tufnell told BBC Sport.

“He got those few tons very punctually. It’s good to see him making runs again and looking to the crease with confidence again. Those runs could only earn him the nod for being such a crucial part of England’s success.”

England will also hope to have Roy’s old opening partner Jonny Bairstow back after the double broken leg that’s kept him out since September.

Phil Salt has opened in the Yorkshireman’s absence, but a top 35 in six innings – since Buttler became captain – hasn’t persuaded him to make the position his own.

Dawid Malan is another option after completing a hundred and a half century at the top of the rankings in South Africa ahead of another ton in third place in Bangladesh.

“Jonny Bairstow is a fabulous player,” added Tufnell. “It will be great to get him back and that will be crucial because he is a feared hitter around the world. He suits me right away.

“Then if Alex Hales is available – and after the T20 World Championship, he must have a chance.”

“Team formation is crucial”

With England having other priorities, the ODI side didn’t have the advantage of playing with a solid starting XI in the same way they did in 2019. However, Mott and Buttler have managed to find consistency with the side’s balance.

The preferred formula has them going with four batsmen, three rounders and three bowlers, with Buttler as wicketkeepers.

The people who fitted into the team varied, but the composition has very rarely changed.

“You have to be very flexible, especially on the subcontinent,” Tufnell said.

“England have done pretty well at white ball cricket for the last four or five years. Jos is also growing into his role as captain. It was a bit difficult at first, but he’s putting a real stamp on things now.

“The composition of the team will be crucial and they will need a pretty clear plan.”

Whatever the plan, choosing the best XI to execute it remains an unenviable task.

Joe Root was England’s leading run-scorer at the 2019 World Cup, has an ODI average of 50.05 and, despite not having played an international white ball game since last July, is expected to be back, especially given the importance of the game of spin in India.

Root has batted with three in the vast majority of his ODI innings since 2015, but may need to drop to four to do justice to Malan, whose four centuries and 54.92 average make him a shoo-in for any other team would.

And where is Harry Brook? The 24-year-old has played for the Test team this winter and was also part of the T20 World Cup winning squad.

“It’s a headache,” Tufnell said. “You have all these guys that can slip in, but do you need to think outside the box and see how the tournament is progressing?

“It’s going to be interesting because it’s a difficult place to play and there are so many different factors involved.”

England's Ben Stokes plays a shot in the 2019 World Cup Final
Ben Stokes was Player of the Match in the 2019 World Cup Final but has since retired from 50-over cricket

There is similar competition for the all-rounder places. Sam Curran was Player of the Tournament at the T20 World Championship and, despite less than impressive ODI numbers, played a major role in winning the series in Bangladesh.

Liam Livingstone offers notable power hitting and another spin bowling option, Moeen Ali offers the same plus extensive experience and tactical savvy to take the pressure off Buttler.

Chris Woakes is a two-time World Cup winner and a dependable, skilled New Ball bowler. Based on the preferred line-up, that’s already four to three before you even think of a potential Ben Stokes return.

The Test captain has retired from ODI cricket, citing the hectic international schedule. His focus will be The Ashes this summer but England are only playing another ODI a month after that series ended, giving Stokes’ exploits in 2019 and the T20 World Cup Final in Australiait seems certain that they will at least try to lure him back.

“In my opinion, any team with Ben Stokes is a better team,” added Tufnell. “Are you trying to talk to him?

“All of these things have to be set up because what you don’t want is to go there without a clear plan. You want these things to be well sorted. I would definitely put the question to Ben.”

‘Find That Magical Little Formula’

Liam Plunkett played a pivotal role for Morgan’s side in 2019 with his uncanny ability to take wickets through the middle overs.

The seaman was the first world champion to be passed on after the final, but England have yet to satisfactorily fill the void he left.

So who can “play the Plunkett role” in India?

“The weirdos,” said Tufnell. “Then you have Jofra Archer, Mark Wood, Chris Woakes. Sam Curran is having a fabulous time – he’s gotta get in somewhere.

“It’s about finding that magic little formula that makes everything work. I think it’s going to be a team game and people need to be ready right away, but this England side are very experienced now.”

player overs gates Average hit rate Economy fare
Adil Raschid 72 17 23.41 25 5.60
Hey Ali 65.2 6 61.66 66 5.57
Olli Stein 25 5 28 30 5.60
Reece Topley 14.5 4 22.75 22 6.13
Jofra Archer 17 4 19 25 4.64
David Willy 19 3 40.33 38 6.36
Sam Curran 43 2 117 129 5.44
Liam Livingstone 8th 1 52 48 6.50
Markus Holz 16 1 38 60 3.80
Chris Wakes 15 0 N / A N / A 5.73
Ben Stokes 6 0 N / A N / A 6.17

England have tried a number of options through the middle under Buttler but with the team making so many cuts and changes it’s hard to know who they have earmarked for the enforcer role this autumn.

Not surprisingly, the spin duo of Adil Rashid and Moeen had a heavy workload in that passage of the game with the Yorkshireman, easily the most successful English bowler between the 11th and 40th over. The hope will be that Moeen and possibly Livingstone will be more effective in India on spin-friendly surfaces.

Maybe altitude matters. The shorter, slippery bowlers like Curran and Wood have been battling for wickets in the middle overs. Bigger bowlers – much like Plunkett – like Archer, Reece Topley and Olly Stone have taken wickets far more frequently.

‘Build an attack around Archer’

team hit rate Economy fare
Australia 12 5.94
Pakistan 16 6.25
West Indies 20 6.63
England 17 7.30
Bangladesh 21 7.37
New Zealand 17 8.20
India 25 8.27
Sri Lanka 14 8.34
Afghanistan 29 8.48
South Africa 16 8.59

At the start of 2019, England’s biggest weakness was death bowling. The addition of Archer in the last few months leading up to the Worlds helped address that and the 27-year-old fast bowler will be just as important this year.

His figures in the last 10 overs of an inning since returning from injury are remarkable – eight wickets at 4.75, a strike rate of six and all at just 4.75 runs per over.

The sample size is small, but Archer’s importance to England is clear.

“Jofra Archer is a fabulous player coming back,” added Tufnell. “He has settled in well after his injury and seems fully fit and firing. They’re trying to build an attack around him.”

As for who could help him late in the innings, Curran was expensive at the back end of the ODIs but was exceptional in that role in the T20 side and has done similarly well in the Indian Premier League.

Woakes and Wood also dealt with death during their careers in England.

Rashid has also had an admirable performance bowling in the last 10 overs and could come in handy on turning surfaces, particularly against the lower tier.

“We’re forgetting Chris Jordan,” Tufnell said. “Maybe he’s more T20, but on death he’s an option.

“It all depends on what’s served to you on the subcontinent, what kind of pitches there are. You have to be flexible and then you could introduce someone in no time, or someone has performed well and they come in.”

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